While demand for engineers and technically skilled employers is rising in the US, thousands of veteran employees are retiring every year and not enough young personnel are coming up to replace them. PMMI: The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies is producing a number of educational and outreach programs to attract young folks to manufacturing careers and reverse the ‘brain drain.’
Getting a jump
One such program is JumPPstart, a program pushing PMMI member companies to each out and encourage schoolchildren of all ages to get interested and excited in manufacturing.
Maria Ferrante, vice president of education and workforce development for PMMI, told FoodProductionDaily programs like JumPPstart are having a noticeable effect in exciting future processing and packaging professionals.
“JumPPstart is really reaching out into our communities and making an impact,” she said.
Filling the gap
Matt Jones, director of sales for conveyor technology firm Dorner Manufacturing, said the US manufacturing sector could be facing a gap of approximately 600,000 technical jobs in coming years.
“The need to replace and backfill those jobs is really important,” he said.
He explained Project Lead the Way, a national effort to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to young people.
“The emphasis is on fun, education, and exposure to technology,” he said. “It helps bring home the importance of technology by underscoring the importance and relevance of STEM to kids’ daily lives, and future careers.”
Jones encouraged processing and packaging professionals at all levels to pitch in by interfacing with local school officials to support educational programs, donate time to speak to students, host tours, and donate funds to push the effort.
Brian Ormanic, applications engineer for Wisconsin-based packaging technology firm ARPAC, told FPD about reaching out to students of all ages. Recent efforts include treating children as young as six to educational museum visits, and tours of PMMI member facilities to get up close and personal with powerhouse processing and packaging machinery.
“This gives students a chance to see what happens inside those gray factory buildings,” he said. “It shows them that manufacturing jobs can be interesting, high-tech, and cool.”
Ormanic added if he had been introduced to educational outreach programs like JumPPstart as a youngster, he might have realized earlier that engineering was his life’s calling.
Wisconsin engineering student Jacob Ertel talked about his experience with PMMI’s student outreach, and the organization’s partnership with For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST). Both groups organize student programs and competitions that put young engineers’ skills to the test in real-world situations, such as automation construction and packaging design.
“The great partnerships with FIRST and PMMI allows students to develop skills, and see how the skills they’re learning can be used in the professional world,” he said.
Ferrante commended PMMI member companies for stepping up and taking time to reach out to young folks, sharing their knowledge and excitement with future generations.
“This is really a personal journey for most of these guys—the topic is something that touches everyone here on a professional and personal level,” she said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we can do.”
At PACK EXPO International 2014 conference (scheduled November 2-5 in Chicago), PMMI will be offering a number of programs dedicated to students and educational development. In addition to the PMMI Education and Workforce Development Pavilion, the organization will be running two student competitions: The Amazing Packaging Race, and the PACK Solutions Challenge.
Join us for our free online event, Beverage & Dairy Treatment 2014, on Thursday (March 20 2014). The program starts at 10.15am New York time, 3.15pm in Paris, and explores process technologies including aseptic, ESL and HPP.
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